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  • Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
    – Fishermen in Saint-Pierre and Acadians in Miquelon
Town of Saint-Pierre
Town of Saint-Pierre (author Ken Eckert, CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

Located 25 kilometres south of the coast of Newfoundland, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are today a French overseas community of 6,000 permanent inhabitants, 90% of whom live in Saint-Pierre. The first inhabitants of the archipelago were Breton, Norman and Basque fishermen who founded the town of Saint-Pierre and its fishing port around 1604. Local history was then particularly eventful, at the height of the endless colonial conflict between the British and the French in the 18th century…

From 1690 to 1814, the archipelago was taken and taken again nine times alternately by England and France, and four times it was devastated completely and all its residents were deported. In November 1815, the second Treaty of Paris finally handed it over to France. Although the re-colonization of the archipelago dates back to 1816, most of its current inhabitants are still descendants of Bretons, Normans, Basques, but also of Acadians who started to arrive in 1763. If it is generally accepted that the Acadians are the oldest population, those of Saint-Pierre have an even older local origin. However, in regard to them, can we really talk about Acadians? We need to go back to 1763, when the French had just lost all their North American possessions except… Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

Settlement of the archipelago

Archipelago of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Archipelago of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

François-Gabriel d’Anjeac, governor of the new colony, brought former residents of Louisbourg (Isle Royale) who in 1758 lived in exile in France, some of whom played a decisive role in the establishment of the sedentary fisheries of Saint-Pierre. In an archipelago with limited resources, he also had to manage the successive arrivals of many Acadian refugees, former settlers of Nova Scotia, who in 1767 formed more than two-thirds of the permanent population of the archipelago, estimated at 1,250 people. All these former Acadian settlers, who were not really fishermen, did prefer to live on Miquelon island, even though the sol was poor. In 1767, the government, wishing to restrict the settlement of the archipelago to activities related to fishing, sent all Acadians back to France, but turned around unexpectedly the following year and authorized their return to Miquelon…

Among those who had pleaded the cause of their compatriots at Miquelon were two of the principal merchants of Saint-Pierre, Antoine Rodrigue and Jean-Baptiste Dupleix Sylvain. The former was born in Louisbourg of a Portuguese father and an Acadian mother settled in the colony of Plaisance (Newfoundland) until 1714, when the territory was ceded to England. The latter was born in Nova Scotia of a Canadian father and a Newfoundland mother who also settled in Plaisance until 1714, then in Louisbourg. The question is “Were they really Acadians?”, that is descendants of settlers who had been settled for at least one or two generations in Acadia. Certainly not, but it is likely that at the time, the government simply had to distinguish them as former “inhabitants of Isle Royale” (now Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia).

Here are the four surnames among the 115 Acadians who arrived in the summer of 1763 in Miquelon from the original American colonies (source Jean-Yves Ribault): Hébert, Vigneau, Leblanc, and Sire.